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PM must end confusion over ‘illegal’ soldiers

 It is with some concern that I view the statement attributed to the acting Commissioner of Police in yesterday’s newspapers. 

The acting Commissioner has ordered his offi­cers to arrest and charge any soldier found committing an offence, this in response to questions posed to him by journalists about the legality of soldiers patrolling Laventille without policemen in attendance. 

The acting Commissioner went further to state that neither he nor the Chief of Defence Staff has ordered the patrols which are being undertaken by the soldiers. If the soldiers are in fact patrolling, it would be interesting to know who ordered the patrols? 

It follows that if the acting Commissioner did not request the patrols and the Chief of Defence Staff did not order them, then the patrols are in fact illegal under the law, and as the acting Commis­sion­er has stated, they should be arrested. This is a recipe for chaos and/or confrontation between police and soldiers, something we have worked hard over the years at “arresting”. 

It should also be noted by the military that superior orders are not a defence to an obviously ille­gal order. The Chief of Defence Staff is under no obligation to carry out an illegal order. The situation is more complex than this. I am certain within my mind that the Regiment, notwithstanding the loss by murder of one of its men, would venture into Laventille without someone ordering it. The question therefore is who ordered it? 

The time has come for the Prime Minister, as head of the National Security Council, to call a halt to the confusion by calling in the acting Commissioner of Police, Chief of Defence Staff and Minister of National Security and thrash out this matter, once and for all. 

In the meantime, the Regiment should recall all its soldiers back to barracks until this matter is sorted out. 

Ralph N Brown

Major General (retired)

via e-mail

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